Next-generation SM-3 missile interceptor takes first flight

5:53:00 PM
WASHINGTON / TOKYO, -- The United States and Japan conducted the first flight test of a next-generation Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), a larger and more capable version of the currently deployed interceptor missile.

During the event an SM-3 Block IIA Cooperative Development Controlled Test Vehicle-1 (CTV-1) "demonstrated flyout through nosecone deployment and third stage flight", according to a 6 June statement from the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA). It was launched from a Mk 41 launcher, prime-contractor Raytheon said in a statement the following day.

The missile launched from the Point Mugu Sea Range off of California with participation from the Japanese Ministry of Defence's Technical Research and Development Institute, the MDA, and the US Navy.

US and Japanese officials are jointly developing a 21-inch diameter variant of the SM-3 with larger rocket motors and a more capable kill vehicle, meant to provide faster speeds, greater range, a more sensitive seeker, and improved divert capability in the kinetic warhead.

The test was not meant to include an intercept and rather "evaluated the SM-3 Block IIA's nosecone performance, steering control section function, booster separation, and second and third stage rocket motor separation", Raytheon said.

The SM-3 Cooperative Development project began in 2006, with the United States' Raytheon contracted for hardware and system development and all-up-round integration, and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries working on second and third stage rocket motors, steering control, and the missile nosecone.

SM-3 Block IIAs are meant to defend against medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and are to deploy with Aegis ships and at Aegis Ashore sites beginning in 2018 as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach's Phase 3 ballistic missile defence shield.

A CTV-2 flight test is expected later this year, Mitch Stevison, Raytheon's senior SM-3 programme director, told IHS Jane's on 8 June.

"We will be demonstrating end-to-end missile performance that will test the capability of the Kinetic Warhead with its larger TDACS [throttleable divert and attitude control system], which supports longer range missions," Stevison said. "The first SM-3 IIA intercept test will occur in 2016 followed by other intercept test prior to deployment in 2018."

Final assembly of the Raytheon-made Standard Missile-3 Block IIA round used in testing took place at the company’s Redstone Missile Integration Facility in Huntsville, Ala.

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